People of Antofagasta

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“¡Buenas tardes!”

“¿Todo bien?”

“Pase, por favor.”


“¡Hasta luego!”


No, this is not a formal meeting, just an elevator ride in Antofagasta. The short one-minute trip up or down with strangers involves the art of saludar bien, i.e. greeting people on the way in and out. People in Santiago aren’t rude, but los antofagastinos seem super polite. I lost count of how many times I said “gracias” and all—politeness is contagious.

Despite its size, Antofagasta had a small-town feel, much like Paraná in Argentina or Pelotas in Brazil. Not many foreign tourists stop there. I didn’t hear any English or Portuguese, so we were a bit of a curiosity. The downside was possibly the lack of infrastructures and services for travellers—laundry service, tourist info centre (I think there’s one, but I didn’t see it) or Spanish spoken at normal speed without slang words—and people’s surprise when we were clueless about local customs, since everyone just assumed we were Chileans. On the plus side, Antofagasta was refreshingly cheap, relaxing and easy to figure out—what you see is what you get.

I found antofagastinos disarmingly honest. Not once prices were inflated because we were stupid tourists, for instance. One evening, I tried on a pair of shorts and I wanted to buy it, but I was 1,000 pesos short. “I’ll come back later,” I said. “Oh, don’t worry about it,” the salesperson replied. “That’s fine, just take it.” And this wasn’t in a market where bargaining is expected but in a regular store. Another time, I asked for one of the empanadas on display in a fuente de soda. “Nah, don’t buy it, it’s old. Just go around the block, they have freshly baked ones,” the shop owner advised. When we wanted to stay an extra day, we emailed the apartment owner. “Oh sure, that’s okay.” Like, whatever. And then we had to email him again to ask when we could meet to pay him. I’m pretty sure he forgot this little detail.

Another funny local quirk was people asking me to take their picture. I often take candid shots and while I don’t ask for permission in public places—I do make a point of portraying people at their best, though—I blend in and I don’t invade personal space. This is the stealth method, which usually works well—except in Antofagasta where random people wanted to have their picture taken. When I obliged and offered to email them a copy, they were over-the-top happy.

People of Antofagasta made our stay fun and relaxing. If any of them stumble upon these pictures, I hope they like them.


Terminal Pesquero at noon

Terminal Pesquero at noon

Terminal Pesquero at noon

Terminal Pesquero at noon

Terminal Pesquero at noon

Terminal Pesquero at noon

Market beside the Terminal Pesquero

Av. Gral. Bernardo O’Higgins

Policewoman and driver on Maipú

Ossa and Maipú at the end of the day

Paseo del Mar

Avenida Argentina

Antonio José de Sucre


Almirante Juan José Latorre

Mercado Central

Mercado Central

Mercado Central

Manuel Antonio Matta

Unimarc Santo Ossa

Manuel Antonio Matta

José Ignacio Zenteno

José Ignacio Zenteno


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. This is exactly the kind of place I love when travelling: not especially gorgeous, not especially touristy for that matter but you just feel GOOD when visiting it. And this is the best kind of memories! I want to visit Antofagasta now! The empanada story is crazy 😀

  2. Martin Penwald on

    Is that me or is there a lot of mural painting? And it is not specific to Antofagasta, it looks like there are a lot more mural art in South America than in Canada, no?

    • Wait until you see Valparaiso…! Yes, there are many many murals and graffitis here. Pretty much every South American country I’ve been to has them actually.

  3. Love the candid (and less candid shots). And I agree with the commenter above, it’s sometimes much nicer to travel to less touristy places where people are more honest and friendly. I hate travelling and feeling like I’m in the adult version of Disneyland. Mind you at this point I am dreaming of a few days in an all inclusive resort somewhere

    • Can’t blame you, winter is brutal, especially where you live!

      I can see you in interesting, off the beaten path places based on where you chose to live as well 😉

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